An old photo pops up in my Facebook feed and reminds me of a moment eight years ago…
My tiny son holding his baby sister in one arm and a stash of Halloween candy in the other.
I smile, remembering how we bribed him with candy to take a picture with his sister.
I feel a tiny flicker of sadness remembering baby-soft skin and squishy bodies that nuzzled close to me.
My chest pangs a bit knowing our family is done having babies.
I glance up from my phone and notice my oldest (10) outside practicing his fastball. My daughter (8) fills up the pet bowls with food and water. My youngest (4) entertains himself in the living room.
I put my phone down while thinking to myself: I loved having babies, but I really love parenting older kids.
There are LOTS of reasons I love having older kids, but here are the ones that top my list:
1. I sleep all night.
Parents with teenagers tell me I will soon lose sleep again, but for now, we’ve hit the sweet spot with sleep. My kids sleep all night long. I sleep all night long. It’s even possible I wake up and drink my first cup of coffee before they wake up in the morning. It’s glorious! I follow a few new moms on Instagram, and I feel for them when they post their middle of the night feeding photos. Sleep loss is BRUTAL and makes me want to say alllll the swear words. Hang in there, mamas with new babies. You WILL sleep again, I promise!
2. Trips are so fun.
We make frequent trips to the lake, and after nearly a decade of exhausting myself before we even get there, I can’t believe how easy travel has gotten. This last summer, my kids packed their own bags. (OK, my 8-year-old packed herself and her little brother.) They entertained themselves on the drive while I read a book. We only had to stop once, and I didn’t have to change a diaper in a gas station bathroom. Once at the lake, they could put on their own swimsuits and sunscreen. They could ride on the boat without me holding on to the bottom of their life jacket. We didn’t have to plan our day around naps anymore. (Unless it’s MY nap!) We have started dreaming up longer road trips we will take when it’s safe again to travel. I. CAN’T. WAIT.
3. This decade is mine.
I spent my entire 30s pregnant, nursing, and changing diapers. I don’t regret it one minute, but I feel so excited to turn 40. I feel excited to have my body to myself again, to have time for hobbies again, to reinvest in my friendships again, and to date my husband again. I have business goals and books I want to read. I spent the last decade doing the noble work of parenting small children; this next decade is mine.
4. I love talking with them about important things.
I have files in my phone where I wrote down all the funny things my kids said when they were younger. They don’t say as many “cute” things now, but I love having conversations with them about things that matter. My kids amaze me with their ability to think about deep and profound issues. We’ve had important conversations about the election, racism, gender equality, and public health. I love hearing their thoughts, and I find parenting older kids so much more stimulating than caring for babies and toddlers.
5. I love watching them become their own people.
When my kids were younger, I had more control over them. I dressed them, I chose activities for them, I made decisions for them. They’re older now, and while I have influence over their decisions, they’re learning to “be the boss” of their own lives. I absolutely love watching them become their own selves. When I look at adults who have healthy relationships with their grown children, the secret to their success seems to be a genuine interest in, appreciation for, and acceptance of the adults their children have become. I hope I can practice the same level of interest, appreciation, and acceptance of my own children so we have a lifetime of connection ahead of us. They may not be cute babies anymore, but I really like the people they are becoming.
I want to encourage the moms with young children who simultaneously dream of running away and feel sad their babies are growing up too fast. Try to enjoy the baby stage as much as you can, but trust me when I tell you, you’ll like your older kids, too.
Did I mention the sleep is amazing??